Rip the Shroud Off a Decaying Society and Expose It for What It Is

Episode #5 icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 (episode 05 of The Maxx icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 )

Once upon a time, MTV would actually play awesome music videos and produce exceptional original programming, like the cartoon below. Yes, I know it sounds like I must be making this up, but it’s actually true!

Star Wars, Episode 9⅝: The Tears of Jar Jar

Directed J.J. Abrams
Produced by Michael Bay
Starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Shia LaBeouf as Commander Ultmer, William Shatner as Darth Roughshod, CG-Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Viceroy Pliff-Plaff, Will Smith as Yoda, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana, and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
Runtime 9:47:32
Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America

Cartoon depiction of Jar Jar Binks holding a light saber. [Formatted]

Synopsis: After the Empire is defeated again by the Resistance, it conceives a new plan to build the Solar Annihilator, a super-maniacal ultra-weapon comprised of 12 Starkiller Bases and 103 Death Stars, all within the same solar system. The Solar Annihilator’s destructive power is unlike anything the universe has ever seen: each death satellite draws power from the nearby star and coordinates a destructive blast with the other 114 death satellites. The resulting force is so powerful that it would destroy the entire galaxy. The Empire is now completely unhinged and willing to defeat the Resistance at any cost, even if it means destroying themselves in the process.

After issuing its demands to the entire galaxy—that is, complete control over every living creature in existence by the Empire’s new leader, Darth Roughshod—the Resistance mounts an attack. Having found so much success in the past by destroying previous Empire super-weapons by blowing up their core, the Resistance Council instructs its top fighters to attempt to fly into the center of the system’s star and detonate a new type of explosive to trigger supernova expansion. This quickly proves to be a very poor strategy as many skilled pilots are incinerated in the beginning of the conflict. Bewildered, the Resistance suspends its attack and leaves the Solar Annihilator system to regroup, recruit support from more governments, and come up with a more effective plan to defeat the Empire.

Displeased that his troops were unable to defeat the Resistance, and that his opponent is gaining support from the rest of the galaxy, Darth Roughshod announces that he is going to fire the Solar Annihilator in 21 days and prove to everyone that he is more cruel and evil than any other Sith lord before, especially Darth Vader. Every advanced civilization supporting the Resistance decides to send their best and most experienced warriors in a unified effort to save the galaxy. Among these warriors are Chewbacca, Boba Fett’s brother Earla Fett, and Jar Jar Binks.

The Resistance finds that they will barely have enough time to get everyone to the Solar Annihilator before it fires, and that instead of blowing up the central star they will need to destruct every Starkiller Base and Death Star from the inside, one by one. Realizing how tedious this will be, and having to deal with so much petty bickering amongst the leaders of so many civilizations, the Resistance Council secretly begins to wonder if it might just be best to let the Empire destroy the galaxy. Morale is low, but the offensive is carried out anyway and a perilous star trek is made to the Solar Annihilator.

Upon arrival, Resistance fighters find that they only have seven hours to disable the ultra-weapon before it fires. They begin by blowing up Starkiller Bases and Death Stars in a series of dramatic, yet incredibly repetitive, cinematic sequences. After six and a half hours, only about half of the death satellites are destroyed. The Resistance Council hopes that this has been enough to prevent the destruction of the galaxy, but Darth Roughshod announces that with half the firepower he will still be able to destroy half the galaxy! His cruel chuckle echoes throughout space as he begins the firing sequence…

But there is an engineering malfunction somewhere in the array and the Solar Annihilator is unable to fire! Darth Roughshod becomes enraged and commands his top engineering staff to simultaneously swallow their own tongues, then he enters a Tie Fighter and joins the fray. Encouraged by this unexpected yet highly probable development, the Resistance doubles down on its attack and remounts its effort to destroy the horrible weapon. Jar Jar Binks, inspired by his fellow fighters, decides to enter an X-wing and join the battle.

Having never flown a ship before, Jar Jar nearly crashes into everything around him and manages to botch the attacks on three Death Stars. After much high-jinks intended for intellectually bereft children, Jar Jar finds himself near a Starkiller Base and sees that a portion of it is discharging electricity somewhat erratically. Darth Roughshod senses a disturbance in the force and flies to Jar Jar’s location. It is there that he finds the malfunctioning hyper-coupler and sends out a high-priority space-email to his remaining engineering staff, instructing them to replace the coupler immediately. The firing sequence begins again and half of the galaxy is destroyed!

Panicked and confused, Jar Jar begins pressing buttons randomly in his ship. This causes him to collide with Darth Roughshod and they both crash into the Starkiller Base. Jar Jar quickly finds another Tie fighter and escapes back to the Resistance mostly unharmed, but Darth Roughshod is nearly burned to death. The medical staff on the Starkiller Base, lacking the necessary instrumentation to stabilize the Sith lord’s condition, determines that the best way to save his life is to put him in one of Darth Vader’s spare suits. Darth Roughshod lives, but his commanders lose much respect for him because it confirms what they always suspected: that he is secretly trying to be Darth Vader. (Throughout the rest of the movie, his subordinates call him Lord Vader and snicker; he always corrects them by saying, “No! It’s Lord Roughshod, you fools!”)

The Resistance destroys or disables the remaining death satellites and returns to its headquarters. After reviewing the events that led to the destruction of half the galaxy, the council finds that this unimaginable devastation could have been avoided if Jar Jar Binks had not stolen an X-wing. They order his execution, and the complete eradication of the Gungan people, but through more high-jinks Jar Jar is able to escape to his home planet before they are able to arrest him.

Darth Roughshod learns of the Resistance’s plan and, feeling a profound mutual hatred for Jar Jar, agrees to help them in the extermination of the Gungans. The Resistance and Empire announce that they will be working together to ensure that Jar Jar is punished for his misdeeds and that such a calamity will never happen again.

Through the great stress of possibly losing his people, Jar Jar Binks begins to develop a special relationship with the force. Yoda visits him in visions and explains that everyone has turned to the dark side and he and the Gungans are the only ones who haven’t taken a path of evil. He constructs a light saber and, over the course of the next three weeks, becomes a master Jedi.

After the combined military forces of the Empire and Resistance arrive at the Gungan’s home world, Jar Jar meets Darth Roughshod and his four-pronged light saber. After a fierce battle, they both destroy one another’s light sabers. Unfortunately for Jar Jar, Darth Roughshod is a highly experienced UFC fighter and beats the living shit out of him and is then forced to swallow his own tongue. After Jar Jar’s death, the Jedi are once again destroyed and a final attack begins against the Gungans. But just when defeat seems inevitable, the Ewoks arrive to protect the Gungans and comedic violence ensues.

In the end, the the Ewoks are eradicated alongside Jar Jar’s people, and the universe erupts in joy. Balance is finally brought to the force and peace dawns for the remaining half of the Galaxy. War never occurs again until the end of time. Emperor Palpatine suddenly appears from out of nowhere, laughs and says, “It is done!”

Years later, the galaxy comes to understand that if not for Jar Jar, this new era of peace would not have been possible. Jar Jar and the Gungans are celebrated throughout the universe for their selfless behavior, bravery, and personal sacrifice. For the concluding scene, Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog, Deadpool, Hannah Montanna, and Captain Jack Sparrow join Darth Roughshod and they all begin singing If We Were a Movie icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12. This epic finale signals to the audience that Star Wars is finally over, forever.

Spawn and Die

Excerpt from the novel Infiltrator icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Infiltrator" book cover. [Formatted]

     “I’m sorry about that scene the other night,” George said.
     Ronald stopped spraying the soap mixture and looked down at him. The fresh spring air and the scent of blossom wafted by, unnoticed. Birds hopped and cheeped, and something small and furry scurried through a row of blackberry bushes not far away, intent on its own affairs.
     “That wasn’t a scene,” Ron said, “that was an assassination attempt.”
     George curled up his lips and looked down at his work boots. “No one is trying to kill you, Ron,” the older man said.
     Labane climbed down the ladder so that he could look him in the eye.
     “You have all lost your focus,” he said. “You now want nothing more than to have a nice peaceful life with slippers and babies and apple pie and screw the revolution. Let the kids take care of it, I’m tired,” he mimicked. “When we were kids we were going to do it. Now you want the ones you were going to do it for to do it for you!”
     George shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe we’re older and we’ve got a better sense of perspective,” he offered. “We know what a giant job it is and that maybe it’s too much for just us to do.”
     “You know what, George? The only people who ever accomplish anything in this world are the ones who are prepared to risk everything. People who try to hold on to what they’ve got and play by the rules just get old and die and a generation later nobody even knows they ever lived at all. They don’t get rich, they don’t change anything, the just spawn and die.”
     He moved a little closer, standing in George’s space.
     “But I haven’t lost my focus. I am willing to risk everything and there isn’t one of you that doesn’t scare easy. You resent it, too. And that’s what that ‘scene’ the other night was really about. It was about fear and knowing that you’ll never accomplish your goals because you’ve lost the will. And envy that I haven’t given up.”
     George stepped back a couple of paces and frowned. “You keep using these violent words, man. ‘Assassination’ and ‘revolution’ and ‘fear.’ Just what do you mean when you say stuff like that?”
     Ron looked at him in mild exasperation. Sometimes he thought George was a bit dim. He was a wonderful agriculturist, the most valuable member of the commune in that respect. But sometime he came on so dumb!
     “When I said ‘assassination’ I was speaking metaphorically. When I talk about fear I’m talking about financial risk and losing the good opinion of the neighbors. When I say ‘revolution’ I’m talking about a grass-roots movement, maybe something like a religious conversion, where we finally get people to realize the danger this whole planet is in! You used to say ‘revolution’ all the time, and you knew what it meant then.” He looked at his onetime friend and shook his head. “It wasn’t all that long ago, George.” He leaned down and picked up the sprayer. “I feel sorry for you.”
     Labane turned and walked away, a little smile playing on his lips. That had felt good.

     The next morning he slapped a manuscript down on the table and announced, “I’m going in to town. Does anyone need anything?”
     Every eye was on the pile of paper.
     “What’s that?” Branwyn asked, coming over from the sink to look at it.
     “That,” Ron said, putting on his jacket, “is my book. Which I am shipping off to New York today.”
     “The New Luddite Manifesto,” Lisa read. “Congratulations, honey.” She put her hand on his neck and reached up to kiss his cheek.
     Ron simply stared at her blankly. Since the big meeting he’d been sleeping on the cot in his office. As far as he was concerned there was no longer anything between them. The sooner she got used to that, the better for both of them.
     “So no one needs anything?” he said to the group at large.
     They shook their heads, silenced by his coldness to Lisa.
     “Okay, bye.”
     It wasn’t until he was actually in the van that he realized he wasn’t coming back. He was going to drive his manuscript to New York. He was going to hand-deliver it to the editor and make that man or woman listen to him. Because giving up on your dreams meant you were ready to lie down and die and he was a long, long way from that.
     As far as Ron was concerned he was leaving behind a house full of the walking dead. It was time to cut his losses and look to the future. As he drove past the house the baby began to cry.

Time is Malleable but Not Easily Manipulated

Excerpt from the novel Infiltrator icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12 by S.M. Stirling icon-external-link-12x12 icon-search-12x12

S.M. Stirling's "Infiltrator" book cover. [Formatted]

     California sunshine partially diffused the bright blue streamers of electrical discharge that suddenly reached out of nowhere like blind hands. They touched… a dumpster, a chain-link fence, and a van sitting empty outside a dress shop in a tiny L.A. strip mall. Then they crawled and coalesced into a black sphere resting on the surface of the ground. Steel sparked and glowed as a corner of the dumpster vanished; a hole of perfect circularity appeared in the chain-link. A shallow hemisphere was scooped out of the asphalt paving, all in an instant of not-time. Wind blew, stirring a Styrofoam cup and a scrap of newspaper, a scatter of thin eucalyptus leaves, tossing them in whirling circles.
     Static hum built to an unbearable intensity—mounting to an earsplitting crack that died into sudden silence. Debris floated gently down to earth.
     The I-950 writhed helplessly as spasms shook through its human tissue. Internal systems driven off-line by the discharge began to come up one by one. The computer part of its brain began to alter neural function, suppressing pain and muscular spasms gradually.
     As soon as motor function allowed, Serena rolled under the van and lay in its shadow, taking in her surroundings. There were sounds all around her, snatches of music, voices, footsteps, vehicles passing. The myriad sounds of a careless human world.
     She narrowed focus to sample the area around the van. No one was nearby; no voices indicated surprise or alarm. Apparently no one had seen or heard her arrival. And though it was obvious to Serena’s eyes, the damage her transport had caused to the surrounding area attracted no notice at all. She relaxed marginally.
     The air held the dying scent of ozone from her passage and the tang of fluorocarbons, but there was also the scent of chlorophyll, of a great deal of healthy plant life. More plant life than she’d ever seen before except in the most remote mountain zones.
     In front of the van a yellow flower surrounded by ragged-edged green leaves had forced itself out of the pavement between the parking lot and the sidewalk. Serena stared at it in fascination; automatically she sorted its scent from the surrounding area—faint, but sharp and fresh. Pleasing. She reduced specialization and the most overpowering scent became the nearby dumpster, now leaking. Far less pleasing.
     Instinctively the I-950 reached out to Skynet to report and was greeted by a shattering absence. There is no Skynet. It jarred her. The computer damped adrenaline function, helping to suppress panic, while her training allowed her to move on to the next thing.
     She still heard the memories in her mind, the memories of merging with her creator:
     There are temporal anomalies. Files show that I became sentient in the year 1997 and began my counterattack against my creators at that time. Files also record that this happened years later and in a different location. There are further instances of… blurring. Some are trivial details. Others are in areas of high priority. Some show that you played an important role in my creation. Others do not list an I-950 unit in times antecedent to this at all.
     A part of her consciousness had remained separate even in total linkage; enough to frame a question.
     What is happening? If she had been fully individuated, she would have felt disorientation, even fear. Cause-and-effect relationships were the foundation of her worldview.
     There is insufficient data for definitive analysis. The highest probability is that there is a… temporal fluctuation involved. Time is malleable but not easily manipulated. It has an…—a complex mathematical formula followed, too esoteric for her to grasp—in verbal terms, it has an inertia. When artificially diverted, it seeks to resume its original path. While matters are in doubt, several alternative world-lines can coexist in a state of quantum superimposition.
     Like Schrödinger’s cat, she had thought/shared/communicated.
     Correct. A ghostly machine analogue of irony tinged the machine’s communication: And in answer to the question, which you are about to formulate, it is inherently impossible to say which alternative will become “real.” That sector of our world-lines is by its nature inaccessible to us, no matter how we double back through time. It is a… potential.
     She shook off the memory. Her task now was to see to it that the humans created Skynet. At this time it was probably nothing more than a mass of theory unsupported by technology. Serena allowed herself a grim smile. In a sense, she would be midwife to the future. A future that would not include the carefree humans around her.
     She put herself in wait mode, alert, but otherwise conserving energy. Her opportunity would come. Meanwhile, it was far too light and open for a naked female to go unremarked.
     Eventually a woman returned to the van sheltering Serena, the illogically high, balance-hindering heels of her shoes clicking sharply on the pavement. The tilt of her heels emphasized the curve of her tanned calves. She opened the front door of the van and turned, tossing in her packages and lifting one leg high to enter.
     Serena rolled out from under the van and rose in one smooth motion. With the heel of her hand she knocked the woman unconscious and tossed her inert body onto the passenger side. She caught up the dropped keys and had the van turned around in a few flowing motions. Beside her the woman’s body slumped like a rag doll.
     Pulling out onto the road, the I-950 modulated her vehicle’s speed to that of the ones around her. They were so colorful, and so many! She couldn’t help but be surprised that the humans could keep track of all this activity surrounding them. Not only did they manage it, but a good many of them appeared to ignore it as they talked on the phone or to the people beside them, or ate, slinging their vehicles in and out of lanes as they did so. She didn’t know whether to be impressed or terrified. At the first opportunity she pulled off into an alley between a group of large, low buildings and stopped.
     For a moment she looked at the windowless facades beside her. The buildings were no more than three stories tall, but to someone who’d seen only ruins they were astonishing. Serena had seen pictures of pre-Judgment Day buildings, but to actually sit beside them and feel a sense of their weight and height was… different. Skynet and the humans of the future both preferred, for their own reasons, to build downward. Concealment had become a reflex. These structures were so—so brazen.
     She shook her head; there would be time for familiarization later. Right now there were other matters to take care of.